Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Leader Udaya Gammanpila, a candidate contesting the election from the Colombo district under the betel symbol of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said the procedure had been laid down in the Constitution on the appointment of the Prime Minister, and nobody could deviate from it. In an interview with Dailymirror, he said he was confident of the UPFA victory at this election. Excerpts of the interview;
QHow is your campaign progressing?
As a practising environmentalist, I have run all my election campaigns without posters, polythene and crackers. I know I may lose around 40 per cent of potential votes as a result of this form of campaigning. Yet, I believe in voters in Colombo. Although I did not use posters and spend a large sum of money for advertising through the electronic media, I was able to secure more than 100,000 votes on the last two occasions. I still believe in my voter who is mature and environmentally sensitive. I don’t paint my number on their walls or on cutouts hanging from a light post. I want people to mark my number in their hearts. The response is quite impressive and encouraging because my pioneering campaign ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ is appreciated by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members. They know that unless we initiated it, the party would have been in real trouble.
QBut in the Colombo district, how challenging is it for you to get preferential votes though you pioneered this campaign?
First, people bear in mind how I initiated the ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ campaign. They recall my role which helped them to consider me out of the rest. Secondly, I assume that my unique background would help them to handpick me from the others. I am a Software Engineer and also a Lawyer by profession. Academically, I was ranked all-island first at the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination. I was appointed as an assistant lecturer of the Monash University when I was just a final year student. I have been in politics for the last 15 years and have never been subjected to any allegation of robbery, thuggery etc.
QWhat do you promise to do for the people if elected to office?
Well, on January 8, people decided to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa despite his colossal contribution to this nation. He had very little weakness compared to other politicians. But, our opposing camp was able to magnify those weaknesses through a very sophisticated propaganda campaign. They used Gobble’s theory to convince people to believe in these allegations. I do admit that there were shortcomings in his administration. But, he is now a reformed person. He would not tolerate misconduct of his colleagues as he once did. However, as a person who initiated the ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ campaign, my main duty will be to ensure that those mistakes will not be repeated.
"I still believe in my voter who is mature and environmentally sensitive. I don’t paint my number on their walls or on cutouts hanging from a light post. I want people to mark my number in their hearts. "
QCan you specify those mistakes?
He tolerated some misconduct of his colleagues such as Mervin Silva. He should not have done it. Although we protested his silence, he did not take us seriously then. After his defeat, the people who were protected by him, left him. And moreover, they viciously attacked him. Therefore, I am certain that he will not shield such persons in future.
QIs that the only mistake?
I just quoted one mistake. He had tolerated such cases.
QAbove all, there were allegations about the breakdown of the rule of law, nepotism and wide public perception about rampant corruption etc. How do you refute these allegations?
I look at nepotism in a different perspective. We should not appoint somebody because he is someone’s relation. Similarly, we should not avoid appointing somebody on the same grounds. The relationship to the political authority should not be a criterion to determine appointments. If he is eligible, he should be selected. Just imagine the situation that would have arisen had the previous government not appointed Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the defence secretary due to him being the brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the then President. If so, how could we have defeated terrorism, beatified Colombo. We would have been in a different predicament if not for that appointment. Therefore, being related to a higher political authority should not be considered a qualification or disqualification.
"The relevant constitutional provision says that the President should appoint, as the Prime Minister, the person who commands the confidence of the majority of Parliament"
Regarding corruption, I am not going to say that the politicians of the Rajapaksa regime were saints and did not do anything wrong. There may have been corrupt practices which were in the same scale of those of the past regimes. As you know, corruption allegations were levelled against ministers since 1948. The first corruption allegation was brought against G.G. Ponnambalam, the first cabinet Minister of Industries and Fisheries. It was alleged that he took commissions from a German company for purchasing fishing boats. Likewise, there were allegations throughout history. During the last two years, President Rajapaksa was alleged to have defrauded in mega deals. President Sirisena’s election manifesto states that the commission involved was as 90 per cent of the project value. Once JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the commission was a percentage of the project. But now, the project value is a percentage of the commission.
A lot of youth voted for this government to trace these mega dealers. But, the government has spent more than six months, yet failed to disclose a single mega deal, not even a mini deal. Therefore, these allegations were a product of Gobble’s theory. With all the resources, they failed to establish a single allegation.
" As I predicted, President Sirisena won. Ranil and Chandrika took over the country. Separatism bounced back. My prediction came true"
QYet, the public perception about corruption prevails. Then, how can you convince the public to vote for the UPFA?
I quote from the Kalama Sutta in Buddhism - Don’t believe in something merely because it has been transferred from a higher authority. Believe in something which you are convinced of.
The majority are Buddhist. In this backdrop, people will not believe in any mega deal allegation because none has been established. Those who preach good governance have ended up in the worse practices of corruption. The Central Bank bond scam is the biggest fraud ever committed.
In addition, several ministers were charged with corruption allegations during the
100-day period of their government. The UNP failed to prove their charges against the UPFA leaders.
QHow confident are you of the UPFA victory against this backdrop?
I was a person who predicted the victory of the opposing camp at the Presidential Election. On December 11, 2014, I left Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and had a press conference, which is available on YouTube. I stated at that moment that I would have been silent for the sake of my party’s unity if President Sirisena were to lose. But, there was a risk that he would win. After his victory, the country would be ruled by leaders such as Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike leading to the re-emergence of separatism. As I predicted, President Sirisena won. Ranil and Chandrika took over the country. Separatism bounced back. My prediction came true.
This will give credence to my prediction regarding the outcome of this parliamentary election. This is not a mere prediction but a mathematical calculation. As you, we obtained 5.8 million votes against 6.2 million of President Sirisena at the Presidential Election. The political parties that contributed to 5.8 million votes are still with the UPFA. The leaders of these parties appeared on the stage of Mr. Rajapaksa on July 17 and pledged their support. Now look at 6.2 million voters. It is in tatters. Usually, losers get shattered away. Winners are united. We are united despite being defeated. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that contributed 700,000 votes to Mr. Sirisena is contesting alone. Likewise, the JVP which contributed 0.6 million votes is contesting separately. The Democratic Party is also contesting individually though its vote base has declined.
If you reduce those 1.4 million votes from 6. 2 million votes, it will come down to 4.8 million.
QBut, the President, as the Chairman of the UPFA, said in his speech he would opt to pick up anyone other than Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister in case the party won. Then, how challenging is this statement for you to ensure victory for Mr. Rajapaksa?
It shows his shallow understanding about the Constitution. It explains that he has no proper constitutional adviser or legal advisor to enlighten our constitutional provision. The President cannot appoint anyone as the Prime Minister at his discretion. The relevant constitutional provision says that the President should appoint, as the Prime Minister, the person who commands the confidence of the majority of Parliament. That is why, then President late D.B. Wijetunga of the UNP was reluctantly compelled to appoint Chandrika of the People’s Alliance as the Prime Minister in 1994. Also, President Chandrika of the People’s Alliance was forced to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP as the Prime Minister in 2001. These instances clearly show that the President has to follow the Constitution ignoring his or her personal preferences.
QIs it the person commanding the majority, or whom the President, in his opinion, considers as commanding the majority?
It is the person whom the President considers in his opinion. It is a disgrace for the President if Parliament removes a Prime Minister appointed by the President at his own discretion. Therefore, no President has appointed a Prime Minister who can be removed by Parliament due to lack of the President. The Presidents of the UNP and the People’s Alliance have appointed prime ministers from opposing parties as a result on those occasions.
QBut this time, he appointed a Prime Minister from a party with a smaller number of seats?
It was a different situation. In fact, we tolerated that appointment. We could have unseated him in Parliament with a simple majority. A simple majority is enough to remove a Prime Minister. We, in fact, had two-thirds. If we did it at that time, the President would have dissolved Parliament and called for general elections. If we did so, we would lose the opportunity to prove that our warnings about the UNP were realistic. Since we tolerated the UNP-led government despite our majority, we were able to show the reality of the UNP. That became the foundation of our success today. Otherwise, if there were a snap election at the beginning, it would have brought about positive results for the UNP. For strategic reasons, we acted that way.
QThen, there is another concern that the members, supportive of the President, will defect from the UPFA after the election, and join hands with the UNP to form a government. What are your views?
I don’t believe so. People who supported President Sirisena became helpless and refugees after his open declaration of loyalty to the UNP. They made a mistake once. I do not think they would repeat it. On the hand, if voters are suspicious of anyone switching sides, it will be up to them to decide on them. It will be unethical for anyone to get elected from one side and support another.
Comments - 2
janaka Wednesday, 05 August 2015 05:10 PM
Where are you on helping Hambatota and will you order the taking down of posters featuring you and Mahinda?
naren Wednesday, 05 August 2015 05:24 PM
Yes you are accused of only begging.
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